VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI told thousands of journalists Saturday that he intended to continue his predecessor's "fruitful dialogue" with the media and reminded them of their "ethical responsibility" to find the truth.
The pope used four languages to thank journalists for transmitting to the world the "historically important" news and images of his election and the death and funeral of the man he succeeded, John Paul II.
"I know how hard you have worked, far away from your homes and families, for long hours and in sometimes difficult conditions," he said. "In my own name, and especially on behalf of Catholics living far from Rome, who were able to participate in these stirring moments for our faith as they were taking place, I thank you for all you have done."
Speaking in German, the Bavarian-born prelate told journalists they had an "ethical responsibility ... especially regarding the sincere search for the truth and the defense of the centrality and dignity of the person.
"Only in these conditions can the media respond to God's design."
After the German portion of his remarks, he joked that he had to return to Italian because "we are in Rome." He also spoke in English and French.
It was his first audience with the public, in this case journalists, since Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope Tuesday, replacing John Paul, who died on April 2 at 84. After 24 years as head of the church's office on doctrinal purity, Ratzinger has a reputation as an austere disciplinarian who blocked numerous church reforms. But he and his aides have been at pains to project a softer image since his election.
About 2,000 journalists from across the globe were seated in the Vatican's modern Paul VI Auditorium on the south side of St. Peter's Basilica. Some of the journalists cheered, "Viva il papa!" when Benedict, clad in papal white, strode onto the stage. Some participated in a prayer blessing the pope led at the end of his brief appearance.
Benedict pledged to continue the "open and sincere dialogue" with the media that his predecessor had pursued. Although widely recognized as a brilliant theologian, he is also perceived to lack John Paul's charisma.
The pope took no questions, waved to the crowd stiffly, almost mechanically, and departed after less than 20 minutes. In 1978, when John Paul held the same audience with the media, he waded into the sea of reporters and spent 40 minutes exchanging comments and quips with them.
Benedict did smile frequently, especially during the long ovation he received when he took the stage. There, he sat in a simple throne and read prepared remarks, looking professorial as he peered from behind golden wire-rim glasses that rested slightly askew on his face.
After his remarks, Benedict greeted several priests and bishops who worked in the Vatican's office of social communication and knelt before him.
Msgr. Emilio Carlos Berlie Belaunzaran, the archbishop of Yucatan, Mexico, was among the participants. He described Benedict as a "firm, but tender" prelate who would grow into the job.
"Undoubtedly, it takes a little time," Berlie said. "He is a very methodical, very systematic person. His style will reflect that."
Tens of thousands of pilgrims are expected to witness Benedict's inaugural Mass today in St. Peter's Square.